Mick Lally, one of Ireland's best known actors, died today.
The 64-year-old star of the stage and screen died in hospital after a short illness.
The former teacher, who co-founded the now Druid Theatre in Galway in 1975, was most famous for his role as Miley Byrne in the long-running television series Glenroe.
A spokeswoman for the theatre company said everyone was devastated at the news.
Culture Minister Mary Hanafin led tributes to the renowned actor, who grew up in Tourmakeady, Co Mayo.
She extended her heartfelt sympathy to his wife, Peggy, their children, Saileog, Darach and Maghnus, and the entire theatrical world which is in deep mourning.
"Mick Lally's contribution to the theatrical world has been immense," she said.
"Whether he was voicing Keane, Synge or indeed Burrows, his was a distinctive, inimitable contribution to our stage and screen craft.
"His wonderful ability to communicate with his audiences, whether in the intimate setting in the early days of Druid, on stage in the National Theatre or in the sitting rooms of homes every Sunday for over 10 years playing the character of Miley in Glenroe, Mick Lally was an integral part of the world of acting and, by extension, our society."
Labour Party president Michael D Higgins said: "He was a consistent supporter of causes where rights were at stake, a native Irish speaker and he was at the forefront of development of the Irish language in an open and generous way.
"A supporter of socialist causes, he had courage and consistency in his idealism."
Lally, who founded Druid Theatre in Galway with Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen, was an acclaimed stage actor who secured a part in the premiere of Brian Friel's play Translations in Derry in 1980.
But he became a household favourite when took the role in Glenroe, starring alongside his on-screen wife, Mary McEvoy.
The pair were recently reunited for a new play called The Matchmaker.
"I still have something in the back of my head that I'm going to see him next week because we were supposed to be doing The Matchmaker," she said.
Lally later starred in the BBC's Ballykissangel, TG4's Ros na Run and Hollywood blockbuster Alexander, directed by Oliver Stone.
More recently he was the voice of a character in the Oscar nominated animation The Secret Of Kells.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said he was shocked and saddened by the actor's sudden death.
"He was one of the most loved actors of his generation and will be dearly missed by the public and his colleagues in theatre and television," said Mr Cowen.
"Versatile in both the Irish and English languages, his genius at capturing and portraying the essence of the characters he played brought him wide popular and critical acclaim."
Pat Moylan, chairman of the Arts Council, said Lally's death was a sad and shocking loss to all.
"While Mick will always be best known and fondly remembered as Miley from Glenroe, the theatre community will also be mourning the loss of a talented and dedicated professional who worked in all the major theatres in the country," he said.
"He was a talented actor and a gentleman, and his loss will be felt by those both outside and within the wider arts community."
In a statement, Ms Hynes, artistic director with Druid, said everyone mourned the death of its founding member.
"The mood in Druid is one of total shock and disbelief. Mick Lally was a man without measure," she said.
"He was my hero and I looked up to him.
"Druid owes everything to him. If he hadn't agreed to join Marie and I in the summer of 1975 then Druid would not have existed.
"Everyone at Druid has lost a colleague and dear friend."Reuse content